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Iron Deficiency and Sleep: The Surprising Connection You Need to Know About

Iron deficiency is a type of anemia- a condition where blood has a low healthy red blood cell count. Iron deficiency can make people lightheaded, weak, and feel constantly fatigued.

Aarushi Chadha
Recent studies show that iron deficiency can lead to sleep disorders and disturbances.

Iron is an essential nutrient that our body requires for development and growth, along with producing hemoglobin (a protein in our red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body) and some other hormones. Our body receives this mineral from food and from iron supplements. Anemia or iron deficiency is a condition where the red blood cell count is very low.

Recent studies show that iron deficiency can lead to sleep disorders and disturbances. Iron deficiency can cause Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, a disorder where a person’s sleep is interrupted due to striking pain in their legs. People with iron deficiency also experience poor-quality sleep. While the condition is extremely common, many people experience the symptoms for years without knowing the cause.

Causes of Iron Deficiency:

  1. Poor diet- Iron deficiency in the body can be caused by not eating the proper amount of iron our body requires over a prolonged period of time. Meat, egg, leafy vegetables, and dairy products have a high iron content. Therefore, vegetarians are at risk of developing iron deficiency and so are children who are going through rapid growth and development. Iron is also essential for the proper development of foetuses.

  2. Blood loss- Since our blood contains iron within red blood cells, iron deficiency is caused by heavy blood loss. Therefore, women with heavy periods are at risk of iron deficiency during menstruation. People with issues such as peptic ulcer, hiatal hernia, or colon polyp can also experience iron deficiency due to slow chronic blood loss because of these conditions.

  3. Inability to absorb iron- Certain disorders, such as celiac disease, and surgeries, such as a gastric bypass, can interfere with our body’s ability to absorb iron properly even if you get enough iron from your diet.You are at risk of iron deficiency if you are a menstruating woman, an infant that is not fed iron-rich formula or breast milk, a child not eating a healthy balanced diet, a frequent blood donor, or a vegetarian not actively consuming iron-rich food.

Iron Deficiency Treatment:

  1. Iron supplements- In case of severe iron deficiency, doctors may prescribe iron supplements to restore iron levels in your body.

  2. Diet- Iron deficiency can be treated by eating foods that are rich in iron. Foods such as red meat, leafy vegetables, nuts, fortified cereals, and dried fruits are great sources of iron. Additionally, you can also consume vitamin C to enhance the absorption of iron in your body.

How to fix sleep problems?

Other than iron deficiency, sleep problems can also be caused by poor sleep habits, eating food later in the evening, a busy work or travel schedule, and stress. You can prevent sleep problems by-

  • Keep a consistent bedtime schedule. Make sure to wake up at the same time every day to avoid oversleeping. Do not compensate for your sleep during the day.

  • Regular exercise promotes a good night’s sleep. Therefore, exercise during the day. Do not exercise just before going to bed as vigorous exercising can cause you to wake up.

  • Avoid eating large meals and drinking water or any beverage before sleeping.

  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Take a warm shower, listen to a podcast or soft music, or read before going to bed.

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